I went to school in Rocky Gap, and I went to Fairview School in Bluefield a while, about two years. I went there when I was fifteen years old, to work at a dairy farm and stayed with a man for two years. Because he paid my school and paid me a little bit of the day, and I went to school up Fairview, and then went down to the Gap.
At the school in Rocky Gap there was an old big white schoolhouse, big two room. And they teach from the first to the seventh. There was a little part of the brick schoolhouse, just a small one, and the high school. Then in nineteen and thirty-nine they built the upper part on to it. The high school boys built our room you know? After they get out of school, they helped build them. I don’t remember who the contractor was, but a good friend of mine, dug it out with a team of horses. John Coburn was the friend, he lives down Wolfe Creek. Then in the later years, they just kept on building. The whole brick part built there, that’s been there a while. They tore the old frame schoolhouse down, the old white one. Charlie Jeter tore it down for the lumber that was in it.
They taught more than one grade in a room. Mrs. Helvey taught fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh, four grades. Mrs. Akers taught first, second, and third. Oh it would be packed. Two desks, they seat two to a desk. They didn’t have no chimney, just a stovepipe that went out to the roof. Some boys would get to school early and saw wood. They would go outside and saw wood. Fired the stove with wood till they rang the bell. If it got low on wood during the day why, they let out maybe five or six of the biggest boys, give them saws, and ask them to get out there and cut and saw wood.
Mr. John Lambert used to live down there. He always hauled the wood on horse and wagon, took big long poles easy to get on a wagon an bump it off. Seventy-five cents a load. And us boys we’d saw it up, and put it in the stove.
It got very cold during the winter. Very cold, there was no insulation. Had just old wire, old lights hung down. You could reach and pull the string and turn them on. And it was just weather board was on the outside and it was sealed inside with what they called tongue and groove seal. You’ve seen that inside houses, no insulation, no nothing. But you could look out the crack anywhere. If you chewed tobacco in school, and got by with it, we’d just spit out the crack. I’d say that each room was probably at least forty foot square. An old heater sat right in the middle. The teachers weren’t that mean, but now they’d lay the paddle on you, if \you got out of line. Most of the time, they would send a note home to your mother and father. You’d better take it. If you didn’t you got one when you got home, if they found out. If they didn’t hear nothing from your mother and father in a day or two, they’d write them a letter, or go by and see them. They’d tell them what you been doing and all that. You’d get a thrashing at home. They’d take you out to the wood shed, and you kept it up in school the teacher would give you one. They’d give you one, you got two.
Pranks at school
There was always someone playing pranks. Not nothing harmful you know. You would take buckeyes in the fall, and put them in the stove, and they’ll bust like a shotgun to explode, before they dry up. Some kind of ashes in them. One of the guys there one day, he asked the teacher to take the ashes out of the stove. He did. He went down on the creek bank to dump them and there was a lot of buckeyes down on the right hand side. And he picked him up a five- gallon bucket full of buckeyes. And everybody at eight o’clock went to school. Well in the summertime school took up at eight and let out at three. So that would give you more time to work when you got at home. And a lot of them walked a long ways. They had to get home quicker. But in the wintertime, they took up at nine and let out at three thirty. But he left about two or three inches of ashes in the stove, and hot coals, and he went down there and come back and put a five gallon bucket of buckeyes in that stove. And put a lot of dry kindling on them. Teacher thanks him for it, set down and in about ten minutes they started. Blowing up and the ceiling. There wasn't nothing overhead but pipes up there. But I saw one went right out in the eaves. I’d say at least twenty four or more, to the top. And I don’t guess that old stove pipe been ever had been took down, and them things got to blowing up a lot of them and in the stove. That old stove pipe got to reeling backwards and forwards and it come apart and here come all of it down. I had never seen so much soot in my life. You could have wrote your name to it, and we looked like a bunch of darkies. When as soon as the stove pipe started to fall, Mrs. Akers said you kids run outside. You go as fast as you can and out the door they went. And all you boys just stay where you’re at. And we did, and it burned down directly but you couldn’t see across the schoolroom for the smoke and the soot. And she says, I’m telling none of you, I’m telling all of you, said I can’t see all of you, but everyone of you go outside and wait on me. So we went outside and waited on her. She come out there directly and she is just as black as she can be. Dressed nice too, ruined her clothes. And she said boys, now you all stay right here. Said you can go out here and play around a little bit but, said I’m going away for about an hour, and I’m coming back. She did and when she come back she had a car load of buckets, pots and pans, soap, rags, and everything like that. Now, you all making a mess, clean it up. Brooms and mops. We went in there and washed the whole thing down. We didn’t get done that evening when school was out, they said you’ll start in the morning. And the next morning while she helped the girls, she teached the girls, and kept them in there. And we lugged and scrubbed and washed all day, and I guess that was the only time, it was ever clean. John Lambert come and brought a load of wood, and he went back in with his horse and wagon, and got a big long ladder, and he helped put the stovepipe back up, and we had a fire the next day. The boy never got in trouble, she never said a thing to him. Well he told me that she just told him one day, Junior, I know you done that. You’re the one that dumped the ashes and picked up them buckeyes, brought them back in here. He said, yes ma’am, I done it.